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White Night Melbourne: what to see in 2017

For 12 hours, the city will become a wonderland of light, art, music and mystery. Overwhelmed by the program? Start with our top picks

Back for its fifth year, White Night Melbourne (Sat Feb 18, 7pm-7am) is an all-night art party that must be seen to be believed. Venture into the city after dark and you'll find jaw-dropping projection art on major buildings, trippy installations hiding around corners and in parks, live music in the middle of the streets, roving performances and many more surprises. It pays to plan ahead, which is why we've put together our highlights. Our tip: make sure you venture further than the main streets (with friends, of course) – you never know what you'll uncover. 

In addition to pop-up art pieces and performances, don't forget that Melbourne's many cultural institutions will stay open all night. You can check out the David Hockney and Viktor & Rolf exhibitions at the NGV, the First Peoples exhibiton at the Melbourne Museum, the On Air: 40 Years of 3RRR exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, the Philippe Parreno show at ACMI and more. 

Installations

1

The Pyrophone Juggernaut

Where: Melbourne Museum Plaza
When: 8pm, 9.30pm, 11pm, 12.30am, 2am, 3am, 5.30am

Jump straight in to your White Night adventure with the fiery fury of 'The Pyrophone Juggernaut': an immense organ made from salvaged metal that wouldn't be out of place in Mad Max. The instrument, created by experimental sound-creators Hubbub Music in association with Strut & Fret – spews out flames as it unleashes otherworldly melodies and Earth-shattering rhythms.

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2

Sonic Light Bubble

Where: Carlton Gardens
When: 7pm-7am

Go on: touch the bubble. There is no velvet rope in front of 'Sonic Light Bubble': an installation by Melbourne-based art and design practice Eness. This 'breathing' bubble, dotted with LED lights, responds to your touch with sound and light displays.

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3

Spherophyte

Where: Birrarung Marr 
When: 7pm-7am

Venture down to the banks of the Yarra and be drawn to the ethereal beauty of 'Spherophyte': a moving flower-like sculpture by Melbourne artist Alex Sanson (AKA Metaform). Feel the world slow down around you as Spherophyte's 48 moving arms fold, unfold and blossom in a meditative loop.

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4

Echinodermus

Where: Southbank Promenade
When: 7pm-7am

Is that a firework frozen in time? No, it's 'Echinodermus': a massive moving sculpture by French artistic studio TILT. Eleven-metre-tall glowing leaves will sway in the wind, as the tree – inspired by the echinocactus family – stretches high above the crowds.

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5

Axiom

Where: Alexandra Gardens, Engineers Lawn
When: 7pm-7am

700,000 LEDs make up the archways of 'Axiom': a towering installation that exists in the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds. Step into an archway and be swept into a world of animation, percussion and hypnotic soundscapes.

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6

The Medusa

Where: Alexandra Gardens
When: 7pm-7am

There's an alien quality about jellyfish; and no more so than when one emerges, singing a haunting melody, from the Yarra River. This light piece by John Fish will see a jellyfish (of the hydro medusae variety, no less) rise from the water and float through laneways, singing a siren song as she flies.

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Projections

1

Rhythms of the Night

Where: Royal Exhibition Building
When: 8.30pm-7am

Last year, Instagram lit up with kaleidoscopic projection art dancing across the historic Royal Exhibition Building. This year, it's back, led by Sydney projection pioneers Artists in Motion. 'Rhythms of the Night' will cycle through the four stages of sleep, slipping from light, interrupted snoozing into deep REM slumber.

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2

The Night Garden

Where: State Library of Victoria exterior
When: 7pm-7am

A medieval poem is the inspiration behind this collaboration between sound producer Lisa Greenaway, projection artist Nick Azidis and digital artist Rose Staff. The exterior of the State Library will become an ever-changing garden, filled with winding vines, fountains, arches and a dreamy soundscape.

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3

Seadragon's Lair

Where: State Library of Victoria, La Trobe Reading Room
When: 7pm-7am

Don't be scared off by the inevitable queues into the State Library; 'Seadragon's Lair' – a psychedelic underwater adventure projected onto the grand dome of the La Trobe Reading Room – will be entirely worth it. Lose yourself in the seascapes of Port Phillip Bay, as animation, sound and cinematography turn this majestic space into an entirely new world.

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4

Home Less

Where: St Paul's Cathedral, exterior
When: 7pm-7am

Homelessness in Melbourne is becoming increasingly visible on the streets and in the media; and yet, many of us choose not to notice. St Paul's Cathedral will become a canvas for 'Home Less' – a projection piece by Melbourne artist Chase Burns. Watch as a homeless woman ascends into her dream state, where she is free from her daily fight to survive.

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5
More Than 1 Nation

More Than 1 Nation

Where: Flinders Street Station, Degraves Street entrance
When: 8.30pm-7am

Before colonisation, Australia was a land comprising hundreds of separate 'nations' or 'language groups'. This striking projection piece – a collaboration between projection group The Electric Canvas and Indigenous art collective Pitcha Makin Fellas – is a narrative that reminds the viewer of the diversity and complexity of Australia's First Nations communities, and that these cultures and stories still exist in Australia today.

Live music

1

Live Music Marathon

Where: Bourke Street Mall
When: 7pm-7am

This year, White Night will have several main live music hubs dotted through the city. The largest is Live Music Marathon on Bourke Street, which will see a hugely diverse line-up of musicians take to the stage from 7pm until 7am. Highlights include very danceable funk from The Seven Ups (10.40-11.40pm) The Cat Empire's Felix Riebl (midnight-1am) and old-school punk from The Interceptors (2.40am-3.30am).

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2

Wavelength

Where: Collins Street Baptist Church
When: 7pm-7am

One of Melbourne's oldest spaces will play host to an audiovisual installation by ambient techno duo OK EG (AKA Matthew Wilson and Lauren Squire). The pair will use water, stone, light and mirrors – filtered through digital technology – to create layered rhythms and melodies.

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3

Swing City

Where: Collins Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets
When: 7.30pm-6am

No school like the old school. Collins Street will become a big ballroom for White Night, with a big band playing swingin' tunes from the '30s, '40s and '50s. Got two left feet? No worries – some of Victoria's best swing and ballrooms dancers will be on hand to run demonstrations and entertainment throughout the night. Classic cars from the era will line the streets to get you in the mood.

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4

The Major Chord

Where: Federation Square
When: 7pm-7am

Tango, waltz, reggae, blues, folk and classical are all on the cards at Fed Square, as performers from Melbourne and beyond bring soothing and soulful sounds from 7pm to 7am. Highlights include Ruth Roshan and Tango Noir (8.50-9.40pm), the Briar String Quartet (11.20pm-12.20am) and The Drowsy Maggies (2-3am).

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5

The World - Live

Where: Birrarung Marr, Lower Terrace
When: 7pm-7am

Birrarung Marr is your hub for dance-ready world music all night. Catch Bollywood tunes from Natya Bollywood (9.20-10.20pm), Afro-beat energy from Firefly (10.40-11.40pm) and mambo from Los Cojones (2.40-3.30am).

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Hungry?

Where to eat and drink at White Night

If you're in it for the long haul (7pm-7am) there's only one way to do White Night. There are more than 40 bars and restaurants open around the Melbourne CBD during White Night to keep you fuelled, with 32 of these venues licensed to serve you a tipple with your midnight snack.

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By: Delima Shanti

Know where to go when you gotta go

Where to pee at White Night

Nothing kills your vibe like a sudden urge to pee at an inconvenient time – especially when it’s in the middle of a 12-hour art party in the CBD. White Night is providing toilets at a number of convenient street corners across the CBD, check 'em before you wreck 'em.

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By: Rebecca Russo

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